Ombudsman Chicago, an alternative school designed to allow students 14-20 to earn a high school diploma, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), has officially opened a new location at 7500 N. Harlem Ave. Their South Side location and West Side location are currently in development.
CPS has initiated three cycles of Requests For Proposals (RFP) for Option Schools. Ombudsman was contracted to work with the District through the 2013 Options RFP that was released by CPS in January,” stated Deputy Press Secretary at Chicago Public Schools Molly Poppe.
Ombudsman’s curriculum is aligned with CPS’s. They’re also accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS). The NCACS insures that its members have accrediting processes that foster quality, encourage academic excellence, and improve teaching and learning.
Founded in 1975, Ombudsman currently has over 120 public schools in 20 states. The standard national capacity for each school is about 1,200 students with a teacher to student ratio being 10:1. To ensure that each student has the opportunity to achieve in the classroom, Ombudsman has a social worker assigned to each school to help assess and address student needs.
“The thing about Ombudsman is that we take students right where they are; some students families to take care of, they have small children at home; there are issues going on at home and in their families; some of our students have jobs and have to work. We want to educate the mind not at the expense of the heart,” said Chaun Johnson, Principal for the Ombudsman in Chicago.
“CPS can only serve students until they turn 21, and following 21 years of age, students can be connected with GED services at one of the District’s Student Outreach and Re-engagement Centers (SOAR),” said Pope.
“Chicago Public Schools as well as Ombudsman partners together to ensure that we can cater to and support the needs of students in Chicago and was given a heat map of the students that dropped out and those in recovery. The decision of where to [place the schools] came from that heat map,” said Johnson. “We’re trying to make sure that we have the proper location that where students can reach us from all sides of Chicago.”
Johnson, who is has been an educator at various levels for over 20 years, is a West Side Chicago native and product of CPS schools.
“In general, the alderman supports any initiative or program that helps citizens earn a high school diploma, which is absolutely critical to securing employment in today’s increasingly competitive world. The more individuals advance their education, the better off society is,” said Jason Hernandez, a spokesman for Alderman Mary O’Connor of the City of Chicago’s 41st ward.
The 41st ward is home to the Ombudsman school located on the city’s north side.
“Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is expanding our re-engagement services for Chicago’s youth not currently enrolled in school. This effort will add over 800 seats in alternative option schools for school year 2014-15 through new and expanded partnerships with successful. The proposal to add seats will build on CPS’ ongoing efforts in this area including the addition of over 2,500 alternative option seats that will be available this school year. The expansion is strategic in its approach because CPS is placing additional seats in neighborhoods with the greatest need and incorporates community outreach to identify and bring back into the system CPS’ out-of-school and off-track youth” Pope told the Chicago Citizen Newspaper.